Why Same-Sex Relationships Matter in “Mass Effect”

Why Same-Sex Relationships Matter in “Mass Effect”  (photo)

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BioWare’s “Mass Effect” titles offer a stunning amount of scale and ambition in the experiences they offer to gamers. The two installments in the sci-fi action RPG series have been space opera of the highest order, and unique in the amount of personal investment it generates in the people who play. That investment starts with the Commander Shepard you make as your avatar. Shepard can be male or female and loyalist camps have sprung up around the actors-Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale, respectively-who give voice to the male and female versions of the character, called BroShep or FemShep by fans.

The investment continues in the agonizing storyline choices you make. Are you a hard-ass, take-no-prisoners Renegade, who lets enemies die even if you could save them? Do you let entire species become extinct? Or do you play as an altruistic Paragon, turning to diplomacy before force and pursuing justice instead of vengeance? The decisions you make ripple outward in the fictional universe, influencing how tertiary characters talk to you and interact with you.

But, the relationships that are arguably the most important of all in “Mass Effect” haven’t shown the kind of depth and openness that the rest of the game has. Romance options in the first two games have skewed heavily to the heteronormative. Shepard could only woo members of the opposite sex in “Mass Effect” and “Mass Effect 2,” with an exception made if you played a female Shepard and wanted to get with another woman. This situation came under fire for being exclusionary, and always seemed a dunderheaded move to avoid controversy.

Not that it’s worked, though. “Mass Effect”‘s handling of sex was the subject of an infamous, fear-mongering Fox News report shortly after the first “ME” game came out.

But the question’s always been why? Why no guy-on-guy? I don’t think prurience or titillation’s ever been the issue, as the groping displayed in “Mass Effect” romances never gets hotter than a PG-13 level. No, the why has always been a more philosophical question. In a wide-open universe where all kinds of races comingle, why isn’t it a romantic option for players to have their avatars involved in whatever relationships they wanted?

Well, we may never know the answer but we do know that that’s changing. Two days ago, Casey Hudson, Executive Producer of the “Mass Effect” series tweeted the following:

Happy to confirm #ME3 supports wider options for love interests incl. same-sex for m&f chars, reactive to how you interact w/them in-game.

Now, character relationships in the “Mass Effect” games carry over so, if players do want to change their orientation of the romantic relationships, there ‘s going to be narrative dissonance between chapters. If your Shepard goes from girls to guys from “ME2” to “ME3,” the writers at BioWare might be hard-pressed to explain how or why Shepard switches teams. One thinks that they’ll likely be up to the task. Most importantly, your Shepard will be able to face the threat of the galaxy-destroying Reapers with the love of someone you feel he deserves. There’s no better reason to save the universe than that.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.